30 May 2011

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Cover of If I Stay by Gayle Forman Title: If I Stay (If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman
Publication Date: 2 April 2009
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Source: Library
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck... A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
This is one of those books that you start to read and don't put down until you're finished.  Unfortunately I started to read it at 10:00PM and had read myself to sleep by midnight.  The first hundred and some pages that I had read up to that point literally haunted my dreams until I gave in and woke up at 5:00AM to finish it.  There are very, very few books that I would give up sleeping in until noon on a Saturday to read, much less get up at five in the morning for.

The first chapter of this book left me dreading what I knew was to come.  Mia's family is so entertaining and dynamic that you can't help but want to just stop there and pretend that by not reading the rest of the book you can prevent what happens and they can just go on with their happy, fictional lives.  But once I let what happens, you know, happen, I was mesmerized and could not put the book down until it literally fell out of my hands (onto my face, by the way) when I fell asleep.  I had to know Mia's choice and I was prepared to accept it and understand it no matter what it was.

That said, the book ended rather abruptly for me and I literally sat up in bed and said (out loud, apparently to the cats), "That's it?!"  This was partly my fault, because I hadn't realized that the last fifty pages of this edition were an Author Q&A, and thus I was prepared to be dragged by my heartstrings through those fifty remaining pages.  So because I was expecting the ending to take longer, I was a little disappointed that the events leading up to Mia's ultimate choice seemed so quickly rushed through.  I expected it to take a little more substance for Mia to definitively say this is my choice and this is what I'm going to do, rather than it being an oh here you go, now everything's better moment.  Which isn't to say that I didn't like the ending, or love the book, but it just, you know, bothered me.  Or something.

My biggest complaint about this book isn't even about this book.  It's about the blurb on the cover saying it's for fans of Twilight.  That's like saying "HEY YOU!  YEAH, YOU!  YOU KNOW WHAT?  DON'T READ ME!!!" to me.  And honestly, what do this book and Twilight have in common?  Seriously?  Anybody?  Yeah, that's what I said.


16 May 2011

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Cover of Graceling by Kristin Cashore Title: Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms #1)
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: 1 October 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Library
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
This book is hard for me to review, because it was hard for me to read.  It's a long book, and there are long stretches where not a whole lot happens.  A very large chunk of the book is based on Katsa and Po...walking.  And riding horses.  And talking.  And not talking.  And sleeping.  And eating.  And talking some more.  And riding more horses.  And catching fish.  And eating rabbits.  Should I go on?  So much of this book is about the mundane details of Katsa and Po's journey to a far, far away land that I forgot, many times, where they were going and why they were even going there.  When they finally do get there and something exciting happens, it's not long before they're back to walking and running and trotting and catching fish and eating them and on and on and on.  It's like the action scenes are haphazardly thrown in so that the reader doesn't fall asleep from all the nothing that's going on in the novel.

Where I'm torn is that Graceling isn't necessarily a bad book.  I think the world that Cashore has created is wonderful, and described beautifully.  I think the plot that occurs between the stretches of nothing is exciting and worthwhile.  I just wish that had been the focus, rather than the mind-numbing talking and walking, etc.  I get that these scenes are supposed to contribute to Katsa's "transformation," but frankly I don't see much of a transformation in her at all.  It's obvious from the start of the book that Katsa is questioning her role as a killer, and I don't think her leap from questioning to defying was large enough to warrant 300 pages of development.

So, again, I'm torn.  My first thought when I finished this book was thank goodness that's over.  Which you would think made this a 2-star book for me.  But at the same time, I can't compare it to the monstrosity of Jane, which was also a 2-star book for me.  This book seriously makes me rethink my rating scale.  For now, on the basis of comparison with other books I've given two stars, I'm rating it with 3.  But I will probably never pick up it's companions/sequels, so don't read too much into that.


11 May 2011

waiting on wednesday: four

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
Title: Dead Rules
Author: Randy Russell
Release Date: 21 June 2011
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
Sometimes falling in love means you have to kill somebody.

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were destined to be together forever. Of that, Jana was sure.

But Jana just died—in a bowling accident. And now she’s trapped in Dead School. Jana is certain that it won’t be long before Michael kills himself in order to spend eternity with her—but the days are passing and Michael is, inexplicably, still alive. So Jana decides to take matters into her own hands. And nothing—not even Dead School bad boy Mars Dreamcote’s enticingly warm touch or the devastating secret he holds about her death—will stop her from making her dreams come true.

Romeo and Juliet meets Heathers in this hilariously macabre take on paranormal romance, packed with heart-stopping suspense and sizzling star-crossed love.
First of all, I'm not a fan of this book's cover.  It looks like someone asked a goth kid to make a cover for the next installment of Pretty Little Liars.  Which, if I'm not mistaken, this book has nothing to do with.  But there are three things that intrigue me about Dead Rules:
  1. How does one die in a bowling accident?
  2. What does one learn about in Dead School?  Biology?  Art?  Death in Literature?
  3. Will the ghost (zombie?) of Jana be able to convince Michael to kill himself?  Or has he already moved on to some blonde bimbo named Amanda or Ashley or something of that nature?
To satisfy my curiosities, I will read this book.  I'm honestly not sure if I'll like it, but I'll read it anyway.  Because really, what part of bowling is so dangerous it results in death?

06 May 2011

borders book haul

One of my not-quite-so-local Borders stores is closing (two of them already closed and I didn't even know about it!), and everything in the store is 40-70% off.  Of course I couldn't resist new books at fantastic prices, and despite having a bazillion (slight exaggeration) books on my shelves still waiting to be read, I picked up six new books for less than $50.  Here's what I bought:

I tried very, very, very hard to only buy books that were already on my wishlist.  If not for the perseverance that task required, I would have come home with a whole lot more than six books.  Like, a whole lot more.  Probably half of the bookstore.  Good old perseverance, though.  Always there for me.

04 May 2011

waiting on wednesday: three

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Release Date: 7 June 2011
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
Seriously?  It's like Ghost Hunters and Psychic Kids and Wales and an awesome cover all rolled into a book with a kickass name.  What's not to want?

02 May 2011

Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Cover of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare Title: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publication Date: 19 February 2008
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Library
Summery (courtesy of goodreads.com):

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

I have to admit something.  I refused to read this book for a very long time because of the Stephanie Meyer blurb on the front cover.  Because seriously, if Stephanie Meyer thinks it's good, like she thinks her own books are good, it can't possibly actually be, you know, good.  Then I somehow ended up on the quotes page for the book on Goodreads, and the hilarity of them made me decide I had to read it.

Luckily for Cassandra Clare, her writing isn't anywhere near as horrendous as Stephanie Meyer's.  In fact, she's not all that bad of a writer at all.  Unfortunately, she's a boring writer.  Not the story.  The story was brilliant.  But the writing?  Snooze.

Reading this book felt like reading a peer-reviewed journal article on demons and vampires and incest, oh my.  I was frequently torn between wanting to know what happened next and not wanting to have to strain to get through another (obnoxiously long) chapter.  This book suffers the same problem that my junior-year-summer-reading arch nemesis Touching the Void did.  Great story to tell, told in the most mundane (ha!) way possible.  It wasn't until the last chapter that the book truly made me feel anything other than curiosity (and that feeling, by the way, was "eww, gross!").

Will I keep reading The Mortal Instruments series?  Umm, yes.  Because I do want to know what happens, and the final chapter of City of Bones gives me hope that Clare has some sort of fire up her sleeve than can bring some life into these novels.


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